It's August, and thousands of black kids are either headed off to college for the first time or are returning to school for the second, fifth or 15th year. Hey, man, I don't judge. But it's also time for those kids to be bombarded with "Prepping for College" articles, and I have to say that the great majority of these wannabe-helpful advice columns stink.
For years I've wanted to fix that by giving black students a real black guide to college. And voilà, The Root surprisingly allowed me to do it! So get ready, freshmen: We're going for a nice little ride.
You did it! You made it! You made your momma and dem proud. And last Sunday your minister called you out at the two o'clock service, made you stand up and receive praise from both the Lord and 92-year-old Sister Griffin who reads the announcements with a stutter. Life is good.
You arrive at Nat Turner University (HBCU) or Ronald Reagan College (PWI) with a brand-new laptop and new clothes from graduation money your uncle with the gold tooth gave you, and the warm glow that comes from knowing that your main rival from high school is asking, "Do you want to supersize it?" about 200 times a day. So what's my advice to you?
1. Read that sex material they put in your dorm, and ask your counselors where you can get the best condoms, preferably for free. "Why you ask?" you say. It's simple. Now that you've left the confines of your home, you're about to have more sex than you ever imagined. Happy sex. Sad sex. Drunken sex. High sex. Spontaneous sex. I-like-the-way-you-hold-that-pencil sex. That's all good and fun, but you don't know a damn thing about any of these people you're about to have sex with. So why not protect yourself against STDs and pregnancy, the two things that are real buzz kills when it comes to going to college.
2. Pick some easy classes your first semester or quarter. Challenging yourself is for the second semester. Don't be like the suckers who decide they're going to take Biochemistry 123 (for upper-division majors accepted to graduate school) at 7 a.m. each day, simply so they can show off. I hated those people. My advice? Ease into college. Think of your first semester as being the time that you dip your toe into the water before diving in. Also, it'll make your parents feel better about taking out a second mortgage to pay for your tuition if they see that you got A's in classes like The History of Twitter.
3. Dump your high school boy- or girlfriend as soon as possible. Yeah, I know you said at the prom that you'd always be together, like Reggie and Kim, but things change … as soon as you sit next to that fine junior in the library. And do you remember what I said in point No. 1 about the sex? When you're cuddled up with your new college boo, nothing spoils the mood more than a tweet from your high school squeeze asking, "What are you doing?" Awkward …
5. Become friends with anyone with a car. When you first get on campus, it may seem like a Garden of Eden with brick buildings. But there are going to be times when you'll need to head into town or the city to get away, if not just for a change, then for your own sanity. That friend with a car will be your lifeline to parties and friends. Throw in a buck or two for gas, and you'll always be good.
6. Don't let any cynical upperclassman tell you that your 10-hour late-night fiery hallway debates with 10 other freshmen about the need to solve black America's problems by merging the revolutionary teachings of Frantz Fanon with the gospel plays of Tyler Perry, while adding that the death of Tupac was part of a conspiracy to stop black parents from whipping their parents, are not important! Talk on, you mighty frosh, and make sure that when some smarty-pants student, usually an aloof sophomore, pipes up and dismisses you as "mere freshmen," you declare him or her to be a sellout. That'll teach 'em.
7. Learn to run and sweat. Whoa, man, you are going to get fat, particularly if you go to Nat Turner U. HBCUs are going to hook you up with a daily menu that would give Dick Gregory an aneurysm. Fried this, boiled that, desserts with enough sugar to make your diabetes get diabetes. And it's diabolical because it all tastes delicious and there's plenty of it. HBCUs don't play when it comes to food, and so if you don't want to bust out of your pants, you better start sweating. As for those attending Ronald Reagan College, you'll gain weight too, just with different foods. Strange white-folk foods like mayonnaise, meatloaf with brown gravy, and pumpkin pie will be introduced into your system. And that means wide loads for all.
8. Find nine friends at home, and assign each of them a month where they need to send you a care package. And don't be shy. Ask for the moon. Cash, jewelry, stocks, bonds. And if they don't give you that, then ask for Snicker Bars, Now and Laters, hot sauce and red Kool-Aid. All of those things will help when you inevitably run out of money during your first month and begin starving once the dorm kitchens close for the night. You'll thank me when you get that package of Mike and Ikes in the mail on a lonely day in March.
9. Save your change in a jar. No freshman knows how to save, spend or work with money. So you will starve, be poor for the first time and suddenly find that dollars don't go as far as when your momma was handing them out like they were candy corn at Halloween. No, frosh, money is actually not an abundant item, so be sure to keep as much of it as possible. One way to do that is to put your change in a bottle and save it for a rainy day. Believe me, there's nothing like pouring out your change jar, finding that you have $20 and can now buy that king-sized Snicker.
10. Buy the Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. I know the author, and it'll help you a lot when you see all of the frats and sororities kicking it on campus.
Lawrence C. Ross Jr. writes "The Divine Nine" blog about Black Greeks for The Root. He is the author of Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. Follow him on Twitter.
Lawrence Ross is the author of the Los Angeles Times best-seller The Divine Nine: The History of African American Fraternities and Sororities. His newest book, Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses, is a blunt and frank look at the historical and contemporary issue of campus racism on predominantly white college campuses. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.